The following review of The Last Summer is spoiler-free.
Out now, the new teen rom-com has all the bones of a decent high school drama. Teeming with emerging Hollywood stars and topically tied to the approaching summer vacation, The Last Summer chronicles a senior class’s final months together before heading off to college.
It’s the perfect stage for a farewell to adolescence, tale of self-discovery, or story of seasonal romance — all narratives The Last Summer tackles in its many interwoven plots, and then pumps full of characters more unbelievable than the cancellation of Santa Clarita Diet.
Starring Riverdale‘s KJ Apa, The Fosters‘ Maia Mitchell, and many others, The Last Summer begins by making the traditional YA filmmaking mistakes we’ve come to expect. The “teenage” cast shares an average age of 24, their wardrobes are more expensive than your car, their cars cost more than a typical annual salary, and absolutely no one knows how to text.
It’s classic “high school, but make it Hollywood” type stuff — annoying, yet forgivable. Then, things get baffling.
In its nearly two-hour runtime, The Last Summer does not create a single passable, adolescent character, managing to somehow both overshoot and undershoot the maturity of every teen in their story.
On the one end of the spectrum, you have the 30 somethings, alleged teens who speak and act as if they’ve been deadened by years of layoffs, family troubles, and mounting debt. In all but appearance, these characters are the opposite of youthful.
An example: The first major couple The Last Summer introduces, a pair of high school sweethearts destined for different universities, break up with each other before the summer begins so they’ll have time to move on. A totally reasonable, and believable teen move.
But then, they woodenly negotiate the terms of their parting — without any hint of actual affection for each other, and certainly no tears — ending their two-year long romance with a handshake. (Yes, a handshake.)
More the finale to a successful corporate merger than a portrayal of perilous teen love, this awkward exchange makes it nearly impossible to care about their broken romance for the remainder of the film.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got your sixth graders, shallow characters written with not only limited maturity, but the mental capacity of single-celled organisms.
Two examples here: (1) The boy who keeps a deeply problematic “sexual wish list” of female classmates he’d like to bed before heading off for higher education and (2) the girl who proudly boasts of her fondness for her Junior Lit class by bellowing “I’m always liiiiit” at the top of her lungs, and frequently conveys her need for some silicone “double-Ds.”
It’s uh… something? But hardly an accurate representation of what most teenagers are like. Devoid of any saving grace, you can forget about getting invested in these types.
The only characters I did manage to care about? Reece and Chad. Played by Mario Revolori and Jacob McCarthy, these morons are an absolute delight. They aren’t well-written as teenagers, but their Superbad-like plot is inventive and fun. I won’t give anything away, but if you absolutely must watch this movie, take time to appreciate these guys.
All in all, The Last Summer manages a few moments of reprieve, but ultimately fails to put the teen in its teen movie. It’s not the worst addition to the YA genre, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to join Netflix’s catalogue of typically phenomenal teen content.
The Last Summer is out on Netflix now.